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Tin Hits The Sweet Spot

By: Nelendhre Moodley

Based on stable demand and uncertain future supply, tin traders are eager to tie down imminent tin-producer Alphamin Resources in off-take agreements, Alphamin Resources CEO Boris Kamstra tells SA Mining in an exclusive interview.
Image: Alphamin Resources is developing basic infrastructure within the local project area Image: Alphamin Resources is developing basic infrastructure within the local project area

The Canada-listed junior miner is in the early stages of developing its Bisie tin project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Alphamin Resources owns an 81.75% stake in its subsidiary, Alphamin Bisie Mining SA (ABM), which is developing the Bisie tin mine.

“Early-stage project status has in no way dampened tin traders’ enthusiasm for inking off-take deals. In fact, they are willing to exchange a share of their balance sheet to secure tin supply ahead of the Bisie mine production in 2019,” states Kamstra.

Such agreements will assist Alphamin in garnering the required cash to progress the project to completion.

The mine is expected to produce 9 900 tonnes of tin in concentrate on average per year over the projected 12-year mine lifespan, which represents about 3% of the world’s current production, and will double the DRC’s current tin exports.

Project update

Apart from developing an underground mine, a process plant, a tailings dam and associated facilities with a run-of-mine process capacity of 360 000tpa, Alphamin Resources is also developing basic enabling infrastructure, given that infrastructure within the local project area is either non-existent or is in a poor state of repair, and requires some investment to ensure that road access, power generation and waste management are at a level able to support the project.

Meanwhile, Kongo River recently completed the box-cut for the Bisie tin mine, and Reliant will soon start developing the decline. Teams from Alphamin are in the process of developing a dual-purpose 1.5 x 2.5m adit.

“This is an important step in the development process, as it adds to the data garnered from the 40 000m diamond core drilling programme. It is providing us with information on how the rock will behave in a mining situation, and a better sense of the ore-body once we reach it this month. This will provide our engineers with data to add to their models and designs, including its 3D profile and how it reacts to blasting,” explains Kamstra. “Once complete, the adit will be one of the return airways for the mine below.”

He adds: “Development of the box-cut was extremely challenging, given the recent unseasonal wet weather, which both reduced the amount of time the crews had to excavate the box-cut and negatively impacted on delivery of material to site. This was due to excessive water on the roads and borrow material, and insufficient sunlight to dry it all out. We are currently four weeks behind schedule as a consequence. We plan to make this up during the course of this year and next.”

Apart from adding the finishing touches to the construction camp, which is scheduled to house up to 750 contractors and security personnel, and dry-commissioning its crusher, the company is also in the process of developing an airstrip as an alternative point of entry to the project.

Unlocking value beyond tin

The quest to unlock mineral value through the development of its Bisie tin project in the Walikale Territory of North Kivu Province in the DRC is rejuvenating the region beyond what the junior miner initially expected, states Kamstra.

Located in a dense forest, development of the high-grade underground tin mine is proving to be a catalyst for regional economic growth, and is already providing opportunity for the areas of Goma, the provincial capital of the North Kivu Province, the town of Walikale, as well as areas along the provincial route linking Walikale with Kisangani.

The company remains committed to projects that uplift the community, states Kamstra, and in addition to the installation of cellphone towers at Bisie and Logu, which led to a host of economic activities related to the cellphone industry, and job creation for many people, Alphamin recently completed construction of a local school – its flagship project for 2016 – which has an intake of around 140 students.

The company is looking to up the ante with the development of its 2017 flagship project – a small hydropower project to supply power for the local hospital, and to power a small part of Walikale.

“We are hoping to start development on the hydropower project, or at the very least be at feasibility-study stage, before year-end. This is a relatively small hydropower project and is expected to deliver in the region of around 50kW to 100kW of power, of which 30kW is earmarked for the hospital, 10kW for the city centre and 10kW for admin offices.”

Meanwhile, upgrade on the 50km access road that runs from Goma to Walikale will dramatically transform the lives of the locals, and has the potential to connect with East Africa with the port at Matadi, at the head of the Congo river.

“The road will open up opportunity to new markets, including Kinshasa, which has a population of some 16 million, as well as the Congo River ferry network, and offer North Kivu residents a chance to monetise their produce through access to the markets of Kinshasa and Brazzaville.”

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